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Chapter 32 : Misdirections
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The smile that had manifested on Cassius was so pure, unlike anything Hermione had seen before. She knew he’d left their conversation and had wandered back years ago, to his own little bubble where the future did not exist and the past did not matter. All that was important was the present and the two people who shared it. “I fell in love with her that day… that second. There was something so instinctively innocent about her that I had never seen before. My mother had been the epitome of monstrosity and in contrast, Natalie was just so jovial about life and herself.”
“So I loved her,” he said. “And it wasn’t even until I was nineteen that my father was defeated and by then, she had become the only thing in my life. I loved her and she loved me, that was it.”
“But…” Hermione began slowly. “What happened?”
“What always happens,” he said, sadly. “I told her about me, about who I really was and eventually it came to a point where neither of us could really handle living with each other. When my father was defeated, every death eater in the world turned to me and I began to fall deeper into their world. Do you remember asking me why I don’t have plans to take over the world like my father did? It’s because I lost the only thing that mattered to me when I tried to. Natalie left me and I couldn’t have cared less about power, immortality… anything.”
Hermione eagerly listened on.
“She had an infectious charm to her that no one could resist.” He stopped, pursing his lips as if he’d tasted something bitter. “Draco’s couldn’t resist it. It had taken him only a few months before he asked her to marry him.”
Now Hermione felt the bitter taste on her own tongue and she dropped her gaze. Cassius registered her reaction but continued on. “He couldn’t have loved her as much as I did but compared to me, he had a simpler life to offer her.”
That notion triggered a strange familiarity in Hermione’s mind and to her own horror, she realized she knew exactly how Natalie must have felt. No matter how much you may love someone, no matter how much their touch triggers a fire within your veins… sometimes, you can’t help but wish you’d lead a simpler life. Ron was her uncomplicated option, or at least, he had been. They shared an undeniable history, he adored her and she adored him and sometimes, love just wasn’t necessary. Maybe Natalie had felt the same way about Cassius and Draco. Maybe Draco had given her the chance to lead a happy life away from the reckless emotions of love. Maybe she was fond of Draco and maybe she believed she would grow to love him like she had done with Cassius and maybe she just couldn’t handle the pressure and pain and heartbreak of being with a man so unpredictable and complicated.
“So they got married,” Hermione said, finally.
“It was a very quiet ceremony, barely anyone heard of it since most death eaters were still in hiding. But word spread of a marriage, with vague references to who the girl was and how long the marriage has been. That’s why it was so easy to masquerade you as Draco’s wife. There was already a Lady Malfoy, who was to know that it wasn’t really you?”
It was starting to make sense now. “And I returned from my self imposed exile a month after they got married.” Cassius heaved a deep breath and flushed his cheeks. “I had no idea she’d married Draco.”
“Didn’t you read her thou-?
“I would never have done that to her,” Cassius interrupted, almost offended that Hermione would suggest something like that.
The day was colder, unusual given the approaching spring weather and Hermione felt a chill pass through her bones. She gazed around the large shadows that were cast by the bright sun and felt a looming sense of dread.
“You can’t hide who you really are. When I saw Natalie after all that time, no matter how much she tried to change herself or convince herself about the way her life was, I knew she loved me, still. She was still mine.”
Again, Hermione felt that Cassius had drifted off into his own world but just as that thought entered her mind, he faced her with his probing dark eyes. “When I kissed her after all that time apart, it felt as if something had been reinstated to my body. It didn’t matter if she was Natalie Malfoy or Natalie Baudelaire or even Natalie Lestrange, I loved her.”
“You had an affair?” Hermione asked, cursing herself a second after the words had escaped her mouth. She expected Cassius to snap at her for accusing them of having an affair but surprisingly enough, he nodded with certainty.
“The plan was for her to leave him. But regardless of what I wanted, she still respected him and she had grown very close to him. She didn’t want to disrupt his auror training and so we decided that within a year, we’d tell him. But things happened and he found out earlier than Natalie had hoped and she told him she couldn’t be with him. That was it. H-”
Cassius suddenly froze midsentence and his eyes unfocused, rolling back into his head. For a second, Hermione thought he was having some sort of a seizure but his body remained in control and his brown eyes came into focus a few seconds later with a thin smile on his face.
“There’s an owl for me,” he explained, “from Lestrange. I’ll be right back.”
Hermione didn’t protest and waited till Cassius had pushed past the door and exited into the hallway that she gasped at the horror of reality. How many times had Pansy told her that Draco had led a painful life? A complicated life? Had she ever really believed her?
Not in her wildest dreams could Hermione have imagined that this was the story behind Draco Malfoy. He was arrogant, yes. He was reserved, sure. He was stubborn, hell yeah. But given the circumstances, he had every right to be those things. She had no business to judge him or his character because no matter how bad she had thought her life was, it was nothing compared to Draco’s.
She suddenly felt a wave of memories wash through her head. Memories of accusing Draco, of yelling at him, of telling him off for every single thing he did that bugged her. She certainly was an arrogant bitch, wasn’t she? Her egocentric demands, her pleas for attention and every other tantrum she’d had were all thrown into a new light; this new light, incidentally, made her look like a monster.
She then remembered the way she had behaved back at Grimmauld Place with Draco. He had asked her- no, he’d told her- to stay and what had she done? She could vaguely remember and the odd sensation of time relapse happened again, as if yesterday had been a whole different decade. She’d pulled away from his hand, stared down his confused gaze and then said something. ‘You don’t know’? Or maybe it was ‘You have no idea’?
“Damn,” she muttered softly, her eyes moistening.
The truth was that she had no idea. She had had no idea that Draco was all she wanted. The fighting, the sarcastic remarks, the annoyingly perfect blonde hair, those deep grey eyes… she felt like she could give up everything to see those things again. She wanted him to want her. She wanted him to need her and she wanted him to love her like she loved him, her… not Natalie.
She hadn’t had a clue and now when everything she could possibly have wanted was so out of reach, things were clearing up.
“Damn,” she repeated, burying her head between her knees and locking her arms above her head. The tears flowed out of her like a river and she knew the only thing in the world that would make her happy now was that perfectly formed smirk.
Draco awoke from his sleep, disturbed by the shuffling sound above him. He gazed around as he inclined his head and saw that it was almost night time. He then looked up to find the source of the sound which turned out to be the portrait of Regulus Black.
“She left?” he asked, getting directly to the point.
Draco nodded quietly. Regulus had a very distinctive similarity to Draco and it wasn’t hard to figure out what it was. His face was hollow, echoing the remnants of the vibrant youth that once harboured the body, much like Draco’s. As he looked into the mirror across the bed, he observed his sunken cheeks, dark eye circles and insipid skin. Draco wondered if instead of looking at the face of Regulus Black, he was looking at his own future. He was already so caught up and drained by his failing attempts at redemption, just like Regulus had been. Maybe he would eventually lose all will and make one last attempt to rectify things before accepting his inevitable death with peace. And that was the keyword: peace; death would bring him peace. He would be able to rest, without the world looking at him like a stranger.
“You destroyed one of the horcruxes, right?” Draco asked, sitting up.
“I know what you’re thinking and it’s not the right answer. I shouldn’t have given up on life.” Regulus pushed his hair out of his face and observed Draco with his dark eyes.
“I think what you did was courageous.”
“It wasn’t,” he replied bluntly. “Compared to the life I was leading, death was simple. Killing yourself is not as hard as you think when the only other option is to face the mess you’ve made. What you are doing, that’s courageous.”
“I’m not doing anything, I can’t do anything.”
“You’re living, Malfoy.” Regulus urged. “You’re fighting for your life and I don’t mean life versus death, I mean you’re fighting for your respect, your dignity, for what you want, not just the bare necessities. That’s courage. You’re doing what I failed to do and what I wish I had done.”
Draco opened his mouth to respond but Regulus interrupted him. “The world talks about Sirius Black, the hero who fought till his dying moment for redemption and respect, the hero who stood by his friends in the worst of circumstances, who survived in Azkaban for thirteen years. No one gives a shit about the little prick that abandoned everyone who ever mattered to him and then in one last hope of clemency, sacrificed himself. Don’t look for your future in me.”
Draco knew that without Hermione pushing him, the desire to fight would dissipate. He was already feeling it now, hoping for death and wishing that everything would just end. But he couldn’t call her back, or go to look for her. He couldn’t force her to come back to him, regardless of what he wanted. Surprisingly, for all the lies he’d told himself, this one truth couldn’t be hidden. She left.
Just like Natalie had left him, Hermione had walked out too. The circumstances were slightly different but Draco couldn’t see past the similarities. He was plagued by visions of his days with Natalie and the way Hermione had spoken to him. Cassius had been right, history was repeating itself.
He’d fallen in love with a woman who was never his to begin with. Natalie had loved Cassius, Hermione had been with Ron… and he had intervened both times and tried to find a place in their happy lives. He’d driven Natalie away with his ego, stubbornness and given her no choice but to go back to Cassius. He remembered forbidding her from ever seeing him again and that only drove her further away, angered by his unwillingness to be reasonable. She saw more of Cassius, though she had claimed they were just ‘close friends’. That’s why he’d let Hermione go and meet with Cassius as much as she wanted; he didn’t want to drive her away like he had done with Natalie.
But he’d lost them both in the end, both to Cassius. He wasn’t sure if Cassius had any feelings at all for Hermione but he could see the interest in his eyes. He knew that Hermione reminded him of Natalie though she was a little more headstrong and definitely smarter. But would this fascination ever develop into something more? It didn’t even matter because whether or not Hermione wanted to be with Cassius, she didn’t want to be with Draco.
There was a brief knock on the door before it creaked open and Pansy stuck her head in. “Do you want dinner?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, starting to stand up slowly even though he wasn’t hungry.
Pansy nodded briefly, looking away as Draco put his feet on the ground. She stood at the door in silence, staring at her shoes, and waited for him to get up completely. “Are Ron and Harry downstairs?” he asked.
She nodded again. “I can bring you food up here if you don’t want to talk to them.”
Draco turned his head and saw that Regulus had left his portrait. “No, get them in here.”
Pansy’s dull expression suddenly lit up with confusion and curiosity. She didn’t ask twice and turned towards the stairs, calling out to Ron and Harry. “Hurry!” she added, and Draco heard rushed footsteps follow.
While Harry appeared in the doorway ten seconds later, Ron dawdled behind, grunting as he entered the room with resentment. “What?” he asked.
He had to do it fast, before he changed his mind.
“Natalie was in love with Cassius,” he began. “They had met a long time before I met her and they separated because of his involvement with death eaters and Voldemort. So, when he came back to find her after all those years, he had given up that life. The reason Hermione’s safe with him is because Cassius doesn’t kill; he wouldn’t do that to Natalie, even to her memory. He would never harm Hermione, not as long as he still loves Natalie.”
The paper in front of her eyes was moving in and out of focus as her mind wandered away. Hermione sat in her room, on her bed and held the large sheets of parchment in her hand, feeling the coarseness of the material but ignoring the words that were on it.
She shut her eyes tight and then reopened them, hoping to focus better.
“Matilda Frogwart married Marius Duval,” she said, reading out the names to ensure that she paid attention and didn’t get distracted. “They had four children: Arthur, Paris, Elizabeth and Castor. Of them, two died before the age of twenty. Paris was killed in a riot at the age of twenty nine and Arthur, having two children with Maria Valkare, mysteriously vanished. Arthur Duval’s two children were Tobias, who died of disease shortly after his wife, and Mandela Breech who married Holmes Breech and they had one son, Elliot. Their daughter was married to Duke Embry and had twin daughters, both of whom carry variations of their grandmother’s name: Magdalene and Mandy.”
Hermione flung the genealogy maps across the bed. They were not as interesting or revealing as she had hoped. The mystery was already solved, the connections already made. The only thing left now was the execution of some plan to ensure that Adria was put to rest and the banshee destroyed.
But was Hermione really a part of this plan?
Hadn’t walking out on Draco – a memory that had become very clear and vivid to her in this last hour of reflection – meant that she was no longer a part of this adventure?
“I swear to you on my magic, I will not fight Lestrange without you.”
Her world had collapsed, leaving behind nothing but smouldering remains. Everything she had once hoped for her life was disappearing with each passing second. This was not how life was supposed to be. There weren’t supposed to be fears and worries and stresses. There was just supposed to be happiness. There was supposed to be peace. Now, everywhere she looked, there was darkness in her life. There was uncertainty, confusion and the most daunting fear that life would not turn out the way she had hoped. She feared that she would wake up one day, old and scarred and wish that she had chosen a different route. She would wish that she had stayed with Draco that day, that she had never broken up with Ron, that she had never received her Hogwarts letter not because it made her any happier to think those things but that they gave her the slightest hope that life could have been a little different and the regrets that now tainted her memories would never have existed.
“Lestrange will return to the Manor in two days,” Draco began. “We’ll go to the Manor then.”
“Is that basically the plan?” Harry asked. They were all sitting at the dining table. “Two days and we go kill him?”
“I will kill him,” Draco corrected. “You take Hector.”
“I’ll take Mulciber,” Ron agreed. “How are they both on the duelling front?”
“Strong.” Draco’s voice was deep and calm but Pansy heard the rush of adrenaline.
“Nothing we can’t handle,” Ron concluded, satisfaction appearing on his face in the form of a twisted smile. He looked at Harry and nodded, who responded with an equally confident expression.
“Keep watch for Mulciber’s cruciatus curse,” Pansy added to Ron. “His wand moves faster than a Chudley Cannon seeker in the Quidditch finals. But I think he usually aims to the left, so he can hit closest to the heart.”
The day was coming to an end, another twenty four hours gone. Pansy felt as though time was slipping through her fingers. Every second was so fleeting, every moment was so brief that life itself was becoming a blur.
Draco chimed in with the next piece of advice. “Hector has a weak left leg. Most of his bodyweight falls towards his right and most of the time, if not always, he duels with his right even though he’s left handed.”
“Noted,” Harry said.
Eli brought out a tray containing small floral teacups and placed them in front of each of them, allowing the smell of tea to mix with the cool evening breeze. The four of them paused to sip their drinks and Pansy watched with a heavy heart as Draco struggled to get a proper grip on the handle. His thumb and index finger clasped around the fine cup but his coordination seemed to fail him and he flinched as a sting of pain shot through his arm.
“Cassius will leave most likely,” he said, as Harry and Ron’s eyes wandered over to his stiff hand. Instantly, their attention was diverted. “He might stick around to watch the fight but he definitely won’t interfere.”
“You’re sure?” Ron asked, unable to mask his scepticism.
“He fights when he has a reason to,” Pansy answered. “If you attack him, he will kill you.”
“I can’t take him?” Ron asked, half jokingly.
This time even Pansy managed to form a smile on her face, followed closely by Harry. “You need just a little more practice,” she answered.
The momentary dissipation of the intense mood helped ease the tension in the room. Pansy took another sip of tea while Ron reached the counter behind him and grabbed a box of chocolate tarts. Even Draco managed to get the grip on his tea cup and lifted it with seemingly little pain. Pansy could imagine the dryness in his mouth and when she saw the warm liquid slide down his throat and create a little bulge in his Adam’s apple, she felt her own body ease up.
“What about Hermione?” Harry asked.
The subject had to be raised sooner or later and it seemed that even Draco had accepted the fact. He nodded and delivered his response with ease. “She’ll stay to fight, I’m guessing.”
The other three did not question or protest. “Alright.”
The rest of the conversation veered off topic, eventually ending up as a discussion of Ministry policy at Azkaban as compared to other international wizarding prisons. Eli served some warm biscuits and then excused himself to go wash up for bed, leaving Draco, Ron, Harry and Pansy to themselves. The awkwardness that had once existed was gone and these four people were now joined under one common goal, unified by the hope to avenge, the hope to bring justice and the hope to restore life back to its old self.
It didn’t surprise Hermione that she couldn’t apparate in the Manor anymore but a new wave of depression settled itself over her as she stood in the middle of the room, feeling like a fool and anticipating the tug at her navel which never came. In a pitiful attempt to distract herself, she made her way out of the Manor and through the large stone archway that acted as a marker between the Malfoy grounds and Beech Hill. The wind was strong and warm, filtering through her hair as she made her way on the hard path that spiralled through a set of trees before bringing her out into the tiny village.
… immediately after they buried Adria’s body in Beech Hill, that’s the village nearby on the other side of the forest
Her feet dragged across the hard pavement as she entered the main part of the village, which was a lot quieter than the last time but that was mainly due to the late hour. The darkness had set in though the area still contained a few people finishing up the day’s shopping.
The Beech Hill graveyard was surrounded by a thick, black iron fence that allowed entry only from the large wired gates at the North side of the field. As Hermione treaded on the moist soil, she began to wonder if what she was doing was really sane but it didn’t really matter. She was already through the gates and passing the first couple of graves when this thought hit her.
Past the large skeletal oak tree in the centre of the field, Hermione saw the headstone.
Here lies Natalie Malfoy. August 25 1982 – September 15 2005.
Running her hands along the tombstone set the entire story into reality. Seeing the grave and knowing that below her feet lay buried the real Lady Malfoy, Hermione felt herself sink to a new low. It was almost the same feeling as when she found the photo album in Draco’s bedroom; it wasn’t just a story, it was reality.
Hermione knelt down beside the heavy piece of stone and read the epitaph etched meticulously into it. Strength is born in the deep silence of long-suffering hearts, not amid joy.
“Draco chose that epitaph.”
Cassius walked up from behind Hermione and silently knelt down beside her. He looked at the grave, taking a deep breath for a few seconds and his dark eyes twinkled under the moonlight.
“Why do you think he chose it?” Hermione asked, not the least surprised that Cassius had managed to find her. She was beginning to realize the indications that he was in her mind – this time, it had been the small ticklish feeling when she had been walking.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “I’ve never been able to penetrate his mind. I usually gather information about him from what I can see in others’ minds.”
She watched the wind rustle amidst the few remaining leaves on the oak tree and her stomach began to sink towards her feet. Strength is born in the deep silence of long-suffering hearts, not amid joy. He was sending her a message. Hermione could only imagine the pain that must have gone through Draco’s mind when he’d found out that Natalie and Cassius loved each other. Strangely enough, he must have felt what she was feeling now: the feeling of being a stranger in a love story, of being the unwanted character that had no place to begin with.
“Does Draco know that it was his father who…?” Hermione trailed off, waiting for Cassius’ response.
“Killed Natalie?” he asked, finishing her question with a harsh bitterness. “No, I don’t think the louse ever told Draco.”
Hermione recoiled slightly and then bit back her next set of questions. She hadn’t ever really considered Cassius’ point of view on this. Natalie had, quite literally, changed his life and in doing so, changed the future of the wizarding world. Who knew what he was capable of had he chosen to pursue his father’s footsteps?
“I just don’t understand why Lucius would kill her. Draco really seemed to love her,” she thought out loud. “I’m sorry if talking about this makes you uncomfortable,” she added as an afterthought.
Cassius smiled and leaned against the large tree. “Not many people talk to me about these kinds of things,” he said. “It’s nice to be told upfront than having to pry through minds.”
Hermione silently agreed. Having to pressure Draco into talking about things was so much different than sitting here and listening to Cassius volunteer information. She felt like she could understand Cassius whereas Draco remained hidden beneath the many layers he’d created.
“Pride,” Cassius said, answering Hermione’s first question. “I think Lucius killed Natalie because she had damaged his pride and his family’s. Father’s are often very protective of their sons.”
The wind howled once more and brought with it a collection of dusty, sweeping it against the tombstones. It was then that Hermione noticed two long stemmed lilies lying on the side of Natalie’s grave, tainted with dirt but still white and delicate. “Are those yours?” she asked.
“One is mine,” Cassius nodded. “The other is Draco’s.”
He observed Hermione drop her gaze and she put her arms around herself to rub them against the cold. It was probably past 11 p.m. now but neither of them showed any desire to leave.
“I don’t hate Draco,” Cassius said, answering the question that Hermione was thinking. She looked up in surprise but then, realizing that she probably never had to ask anything out loud anymore, listened intently to his response. “Draco keeps his distance from me but I don’t hate him.”
“Because you won,” Hermione said.
“I did win,” Cassius agreed. “Which is why when Natalie died, I ended up losing the most. If I could have, I would’ve given my life to save hers. And Draco knew that.”
“Is that why he let her leave without a fight?” Hermione asked.
This time, Cassius laughed. “He didn’t go without a fight.” He watched with great attention as a streak of moonlight fell on Hermione’s face. “There was a lot at stake.”
Hermione lay in her bed, thinking of her conversation with Cassius. It was almost four in the morning but her body felt no desire to sleep. It knew... she knew there was something still missing in her puzzle.
She liked thinking of this whole situation as a puzzle that needed putting together. It helped her see everything from a logical perspective. Each new revelation wasn’t a knife to her heart and the sound of another dream shattered; each new revelation was a piece to the puzzle. And, just like when she was much younger, when she finished this puzzle, everything would be okay. The game would be over and life would resume to its normal state. Deep down, of course, she knew that was all a load of garbage but it gave her solace to think of Draco, Natalie and Cassius’ story as a puzzle.
Cassius fell in love with Natalie when he was very young. They grew farther apart by the time Voldemort was defeated and when all the death eaters of the world began to look to Cassius as a new leader, Natalie could no longer handle it. Then she met Draco. He was a much more uncomplicated option, a good man and someone who truly loved her.
Hermione took a sharp breath at this point in her mental recollection. She sat up in her bed and looked out onto the courtyard of Malfoy Manor. The large rose bushes were starting to wilt under the cold weather and because they had lacked the proper care for weeks now.
Draco fell in love with Natalie and they got married. Cassius came back, giving up the need for power, and Natalie realized that she still loves him. They have an affair and somehow, Draco finds out a year into his marriage. He leaves to go to Belize to focus on his auror training and in the meantime, Lucius Malfoy decides to have Natalie killed. Hermione now paused. Paralleling the timeline of the first story was a secondary plot involving Adria. Right around the time Natalie was killed, Lestrange came to Malfoy Manor to seek refuge and the Malfoys denied it to him. He returned a few days later and burnt the courtyard and tortured Adria, killing her.
Over the years, Hermione had come to trust her instincts and they told her there were fragments missing from this tragedy. Then a question came into Hermione’s mind which, she was surprised, hadn’t ever crossed her mind before. It seemed like an obvious question to ask when the sequence of events was placed into this particular order.
There was an army of house elves and from what Hermione had heard, a fair few other human servants who served the Malfoys. According to Pansy, Draco had relieved them of their duties after his parents’ incarceration. But why Adria then?
The idea of rape had crossed her mind but if the primary motive was lust, then wouldn’t that have been visible in her death? Why torture her to such a degree that her body essentially became a shell of dark magic? Why put her through the pain of burning her body alive when it would be just as easy to use the killing curse on her?
Hermione had seen enough crime in her life to distinguish a crime of hot passion from a cold blooded one. Adria’s murder was done in cold blood. She had been murdered in a small shack on the outer edge of the grounds and her body had been dragged back into the Malfoy dungeons. This had been a calculated and well thought-out crime.
Questions were circling Hermione’s mind, igniting a seething urge in her to collapse. Her mind was straining, trying to find some sort of a connection between the two stories and the drain was beginning to manifest itself physically. Hermione felt her head hurt, a cold and numb feeling starting to surface from the bottom and make its way into the core of her brain. A light pulse dominated her senses and she took a deep breath. She knew she was getting way in over her head with all these facts and dates and coincidences.
Drawing a sharp sigh, she got off her bed and grabbed a piece of parchment from the oak desk straddled against the wall.
“Lumos,” she said, allowing her wand to produce a small glow that enabled her to find a quill and an ink bottle on the far edge. She sat herself down on the desk and rubbed her eyes fervently. Snap out of it.
The numbers ran through Hermione’s head with speed but she wrote with extreme caution, ensuring that the words were clear and accurate.
September 15 – Natalie murdered
September 16 – Draco returns from Belize
September 27 – Adria killed
“Okay,” she said, sitting back and staring at the sheet of parchment in front of her. She took a deep breath.
And in that one breath, her mind cleared up and the number jumped up at her. Hermione wasn’t sure what had triggered the memory – it might have been that with everything written so plainly in front her, she couldn’t avoid it – but things were starting to clear up. The holes in the story were becoming more and more evident and with each passing second, the story Hermione had just recounted to herself seemed less and less likely.
“He came to find me, you know? Lestrange, yes he did. Two years ago on September 27th, when I was in Belize facilitating auror training, he showed up to my house, pointed a wand in my face and almost killed me.”
Rodolphus Lestrange had been in Belize the day of Adria’s murder. He had been in another continent that day and given the difficulty of entering London for him, there was no way he could have been in both London and Belize on the same day. That could only mean one thing:
He didn’t murder Adria.
Hermione repeated the phrase in her head three times before running her fingers through her hair in complete confusion. Rodolphus Lestrange didn’t kill Adria. He couldn’t have killed her. Unless Skeid had been mistaken but the conviction with which he had told her about Lestrange had been so strong; people rarely forget traumatizing moments like these.
A cold gust of wind blew into the open window, sending a sharp chill down Hermione’s spine. She shivered in her thick sweater and enveloped it tightly around her body before pulling the window shut. The light from Hermione’s wand had faded and she sat in the darkness, preferring the silence as the new facts sunk into her aching mind.
She kept scanning through the books at her desk, mindlessly. She hoped that there was something she had missed, something that could shine light on these new bizarre facts. Her fingers grazed the rough parchment and she gazed at the words.
It would be another forty five minutes before she found what she was looking for in those very books.
Draco looked out the window in his small room, sitting on the slightly dented mattress that had become a sense of comfort for him. In fact, the whole room was becoming a familiar abode and more often than not, Draco had to remind himself that this wasn’t his house. His house was under siege right now by a man who had taken away his entire life from him.
Lucius Malfoy’s body had been buried on the small patch of land circled the island on which Azkaban sat, or at least, that’s what the official documents said. Draco knew that the loose dirt on the ground was eventually engulfed by the hard tides of the surrounding body of water. Ninety eight percent of the bodies eventually washed away into the ocean, getting lost in the sea. But Narcissa wouldn’t suffer the same fate. She would be buried in the Beech Hill Cemetery, just like the Malfoys before her. It would take the intervention of death before Draco let his mother’s body degrade at the floor of the sea.
His gaze dropped to his bare chest which looked silver in the moonlight. Judging by the softness of the flesh that shaped his crescent scar, death could intervene before Draco finished his mission.
Harry had agreed that getting back into Malfoy Manor as soon as Lestrange returned would give them the element of surprise. But now, Draco wondered if either Ron or Harry or even Pansy really understood that invading Malfoy Manor in two days wasn’t the best option but rather, the only option.
His last episode had rendered him very weak. His legs felt like boulders, weighed down by the stiffness in his back. His arms, on the other hand, had taken on a flaccid quality, requiring a huge amount of effort to perform the smallest of tasks. He feared that two days was all the strength he could afford to lose; any more than that and he knew that he’d be cutting it close. If the rate at which his body lost strength remained the same, then he knew he’d be able to pull through in two days and get his revenge. He’d be able to go to the Manor and avenge his family.
He’d be able to say goodbye to Hermione.
He had thought about what he would say to her if he saw her again. There were so many things he wanted to express but once again, time was limited and in the end, Draco decided he would say farewell by telling her he loved her. He hoped that in realizing his love, she would forgive his lies. She would at least know that he had meant well and that the man she had spent so much time with wasn’t a facade. That had been the real Draco Malfoy: a man who had been branded with scars that most people never experience in their entire lifespan, let alone the first twenty five years. He was a broken man and in Hermione, he had forgotten just how broken he was. In her company, he wasn’t the man whose wife killed herself because their marriage had been a lie; he was happy with Hermione.
But that was too much to say to a woman who couldn’t stand the sight of him. He would see her just long enough to tell her that he loved her and then he would move on, be it with life or with death
For now, he was content with watching the moon as it floated amongst the clouds. He wondered if Hermione was watching the same thing he was.
Miles away, Hermione’s heart began to race as she discovered the missing link between both stories. She could feel the throbs echoing in her ears as each piece of the puzzle came together. It made so much sense but the clearer it became, the more worried Hermione got.
She read the words in the book again, confirming that she had not lost her mind. She needed to see them again, and again, as if the revelation was a dream. It was coming together... her little puzzle was starting to make sense and the more she found out, the harder her head ached.
And in a flash, her headache disappeared.
Hermione froze. Her short, cold breaths were the only noise in the room. The fog from her bated breath hovered in the air for a few seconds before disappearing. A cold shiver passed through her.
She understood the pains in her head now, the way they had been plaguing her all night.
She reached for her wand but he was too fast for her. Before her fingers even grazed the wood, his spell had filled the room with a bright red light. Hermione felt a sharp pain in her arms as a force pushed her against the wall. Blood trickled down her nose as his face came into view, his eyes filled with a calm disposition.
Cassius’ lips curved into a smile. “I was wondering when you’d figure it all out.”
Chapter 33 - Words couldn’t escape her mouth, her tongue was paralyzed and all she could do was feel the cold chills pass through her bones.
I'm so sorry about the delay! This and the following chapters are really important so I was ironing out some of the kinks! And on top of that, exams and school take up a lot of my time! I apologize for the delay and I promise it won't happen for the next chapter =)
Hope you liked this chapter! Let me know what you think!
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